Five questions for: Samantha Bamert, CEO of AskIf
Ask Inclusive Finance (AskIf) is a commercial enterprise with an ambitious social mission.
What does your business do?
Ask Inclusive Finance (AskIf) is a commercial enterprise with an ambitious social mission to close the sizeable funding gap for loans to financeable small companies unable to secure funding from banks. Smaller estimates suggest this funding gap could be upwards of £2.2bn per year.
Other research estimates much larger numbers. AskIf is a platform lender bringing together funders, a network of lending partners and the borrowers themselves. By providing support and funding to small companies, we'll enable job creation, economic value and opportunity in many communities across the UK.
What's been your greatest achievement?
The ecosystem of support and funding for companies who don't fit the tick-box requirements of banks is fragmented and incoherent, making it very difficult for companies to navigate. Our platform has been designed, built and launched, and connects a strong network of partners to systemically address the funding gap. We're gaining real traction. Since launching the platform last year, we have already processed over £4m of applications and financed over £1.3m of loans, creating 48 new jobs, and safeguarding a further 20 within 28 small businesses.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Wearing so many hats at the same time, as always happens in an early-stage fast-growing business, is both exhilarating as well as challenging.
What are your plans for hitting targets this year?
Later in 2018 we'll bring new capital into this marketplace, lending funds to many more small companies. In addition to working with institutional funders to enable this capital investment, we're delivering platform enhancements and expanding our network of partners, and will be piloting referral partnerships from other lenders to help their declined clients.
To position the company for this exciting growth, we're inviting new equity investors to join our supporters, with an equity offer through the online angel network SyndicateRoom.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs?
Always listen to advice don't be afraid to challenge your assumptions and pivot your focus. Remember, you're doing a great job.